I never, never would have thought I'd be relieved to hear that Madeleine L'Engle had died. But when my mother called tonight with That Voice, and said "Honey, I'm not sure if you've heard yet, but..." I was expecting way worse. I was expecting to hear that someone younger, healthier, and more immediately and physically a part of my day-to-day life had died.
Two hours later, though, I'm deeply sad. (I know this is a couple days old for many people; I've been offline a lot.) I knew she'd had health issues for the last five years, and that the chances were slim of her ever finishing her (rumored) novel about what happens to Meg Murry after her kids have grown. Still, there's something very final about death, even with resurrection to lean back on. And despite my initial reaction that she wasn't a part of my day-to-day life, she's had more of an impact on me than most people who I've seen more of.
I first read A Wrinkle in Time when I was 8, because she was coming to preach at our church. I don't remember a whole lot, but I do remember certain pieces of both the sermon and the adult forum that I skipped Sunday School to hear. I don't think I remember any other sermons until I get to about age 15 or so. I was enraptured enough with both her presence and her writing that I read the whole rest of the Time Trilogy right off, and kept reading her stuff as I could find it. There's now very little of her work I haven't read, though there's still a little left. It's impacted my writing, my theology, everything. In fact, it's quite possible that A Swiftly Tilting Planet may have saved my life at one point in college.
When I moved to Germany for a year, there were five books I decided I couldn't live without: the Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Certain Women, and Little Women. Four of those were (at least in part) because of Madeleine L'Engle - despite excellent experiences in the rest of the church, my attachment to the Bible and the daily office come largely from her work.
I'm not sure what to do with this; not sure how to say thank you and good-bye to this incredible woman. I'll say compline tonight, and go to morning prayer tomorrow, and that will be a start, and I'll probably start rereading a lot of her stuff in the coming days and weeks, but all that only does so much.